"Undercover Brother" If you can't remember the last time you laughed so hard you cried, then you need to catch Malcolm D. Lee's "Undercover Brother." A clever bit of film-genre reconstruction, the movie skewers both the Mo' Fo delights of '70s blaxploitation flicks and the macho-mojo hogwash of James Bond. Eddie Griffin stars as a black Austin Powers-type sent to fight The Man after African-American army general Billy Dee Williams drops his bid for the presidency to open a chain of fried chicken shacks. Structured more like a series of comedy skits than a linear narrative, "Undercover Brother" mines an amazing amount of humor and social commentary without resorting to flatulence or bodily fluids for cheap laughs. Hands down, it's my favorite comedy so far this summer. ****
"Juwanna Mann" Richmond-native and first-time director Jesse Vaughan deserves kudos for getting to a point in his career where he's directing a major studio release. Sadly, his first shot this retooled "Tootsie" for the basketball set isn't a creative slam-dunk. Miguel A. Nunez stars as NBA hotshot Jamal Jeffries, whose trash-talking ways get him suspended indefinitely. Desperate to play ball, he straps on some fake breasts and becomes female B-ball threat Juwanna Mann. Before you know it, he's got a spot on a WNBA team roster. Oh yeah, big-time suspension of disbelief required here. Put a wig on Kobe Bryant and wouldn't somebody notice any similarities? Wouldn't somebody ask where this "gal" played college ball? Instead, "Juwanna Mann" lumbers down the well-worn, plot-path of numerous other gender-bending retreads: Not only does Jamal/Juwanna fall in love with a teammate (Vivica A. Fox) but he learns what it really means to be a man by being a woman. Despite the best efforts of Nunez and Fox, it's Tommy Davidson who scores with "Juwanna Mann." His scene-stealing comic turn as second-tier rapper Puff Smokey Smoke may not be any more original than the rest of movie, but he is hilarious. **
"The Bourne Identity" While Matt Damon's first attempt at being an action hero won't keep Tom Cruise awake worrying, the actor acquits himself well. Playing a man with amnesia, Damon must not only figure out who he is, but why two men keep trying to kill him. "Run Lola Run's" Franka Potente co-stars as Bourne's outspoken cohort, but she and Damon have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. Equally disappointing is the lack of hip humor or exuberance from director Doug Liman ("Swingers," "Go"). Although nothing to rave about, this "Bourne"-again thriller does deliver efficient, '60s-style escapist entertainment, complete with a breathtaking car chase.
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